EDITOR’S NOTE: Roger has been enjoying an incredibly lengthy summer vacation, but will be returning soon. In his absence, we’ve contacted a beat writer from Des Moines, IA to write a musical review in his place.
It was 6:32 a.m. when I listened to Flower Boy for the third time in the past 19 hours. I was starting to come down, but still had enough heroin pumping through me to make me think I was enjoying the soundtrack to the rising sun. I was going 85 eastbound on I-80 in the slow lane, and everything was lovely.
Of course, it hasn’t always been “flowers, rainbows, and posies,” as Tyler notes on “Foreward,” the opening track of the album, which does a tremendous job of setting the mood of the LP. The edgy Tumblr days are long over, with Tyler taking charge of where he’s set himself up in life and furthering his direction. There’s always been a willingness to lead in Tyler’s music, and in his personal relationships; someone had to wrangle all that creative energy together to present Odd Future to the world after all.
However, that Odd Future stigma has continued to attach itself to Tyler, a constant that’s followed him relentlessly since he debuted Bastard at the young age of 18. He had already begun to simmer down on the violent content by Wolf, but the shock tactics of the “Yonkers” video and the content on Goblin had already stuck in the mainstream’s craw. Cherry Bomb, released in 2015, showed musical maturation, but there was still the same silly Tyler-isms prevalent; “Blow My Load” is a song about eating pussy and hosts the immortal “If you FaceTime your clit I will jack off my dick” line. “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)” is what he came up with intentionally to create the “most ignorant title ever,” and then had ScHoolboy Q make an appearance just to really put it over-the-top.
The point is, Tyler has an image, and is the one most affected by that Odd Future image, as many people have come to associate the group with him. There’s Earl, but he’s an insanely gifted emcee. There’s Frank, but he’s always been the most distant of the group anyway. The rest? Not exactly superstars, but Odd Future obviously was a success as it gave a lot of young people from California the chance to grow and become leaders in their industry. On Flower Boy, all the hype Tyler has used to build his momentum up to this point is now being used as a stepping stool to something bigger.
Tackling sexuality in Hip Hop is still a new thought. There’s so much homophobia in Hip Hop that the thought of a gay rapper was believed to be impossible at one point. Yet, the foul-mouthed delinquent from Ladera Heights, CA who once said “Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome,” is pushing forth the envelope on sexuality and music.
As much as any potential reader may groan about more praise for Tyler’s apparent coming out, it’s clearly lost on you the impact this will have. DJ Akademics reacted to the news by pointing out Tyler corrected the misheard lyrics on the pivotal track “Garden Shed,” where the music swells and flows like a radiant sunshine, allowing our host to tell us, very honestly, “That was real love I was in, ain’t no need to pretend,” and then follows that up with, “Garden shed for them garçons, them feelings that I was guardin’/Heavy on my mind, all my friends lost/They couldn’t read the signs, I didn’t wanna talk and tell ’em my location/And they ain’t wanna walk.” The lyric that apparently everyone misheard was the next line however, “Truth is, since I was a youth, thought it was a phase/Thought it’d be gone like the phrase, ‘poof’ gone/But it’s still going on,” which only seems to further prove that he is in fact admitting he’s had romantic feelings for the same gender for a long time now. Instead, DJ Akademics and the like had believed he said “Thought it’d be like the Frank, ‘poof’, gone,” which they believed referred to Frank’s four-year absence after channel ORANGE.
Their entire premise revolves around disregarding all the masculinity-challenging lyrics such as “The irony is I stopped eating bacon,” on “Pothole,” “Next line have ’em all like whoa, I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004,” on “I Ain’t Got Time!” (sequenced brilliantly after “Boredom”), the entire confessional on “Garden Shed,” and Tyler even proclaiming, “All my day ones turn to three, fours cause of track seven,” on “November,” which is referring to “Garden Shed,” once again only reinforcing Tyler’s honest reflection and coming out. It’s not that I think Tyler wants to be commemorated for his achievement, I think he’s just now starting to realize how much more different he is.
He’s always been unafraid to troll his friends, fans, and the mass media, and the lyrics here really aren’t any different. He knows many people will be uncomfortable with him proclaiming he’s “looking for ’95 Leo,” on “Who Dat Boy,” or any of the aforementioned lyrics above, but it’s honest and it pushes an envelope, so why wouldn’t he do all that he can to reinforce who he really is? It all comes back to his leadership, “Tell these black kids they can be who they are,” he states on “Where This Flower Blooms,” and it’s fitting Tyler is the one stepping forward, forming his own path and inspiring others, since really, that’s always what he’s been about.
– James Camembert